[Literature - Shakespeare - Fine Binding] 6 Volume Shakespeare Presented to Virginia Congressman Involved in the "Trent Affair"

Shakespeare, William. The Works of William Shakespeare. The Text Revised by the Rev. Alexander Dyce. London: Edward Moxon, 1857, six volumes. 8vo, full leather, 5 spine bands, red and black spine labels, with extensive gilt decorations in the other four panels, gilt border on boards and edges of boards, marbled endpapers and page edges, stylized floral designs on doublure; vol. I, CCXVI, 417pp; vol. II, 604pp; vol. III, 660pp., vol. IV, 780; vol. V, 716pp; vol. VI, 707pp.

On second front endpaper of Vol. I is the gift inscription: "To The Honble J.M. Mason as a token of affection and regard from" followed by the signatures of six members of the family: "Etheldreda Beresford Hope, Mildred Beresford Hope, Maragaret Beresford Hope, Catharine Beresford Hope, Agnes Beresford Hope, and Henrietta Hope," and dated "April 29th 1866. Bedgebury Park / Kent / England."

James Murray Mason (1798-1871) was a descendant of one of the early settlers in Virginia. He was born on Analsotan (now Theodore Roosevelt) Island, in the Potomac River just above the District of Columbia. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and received a law degree from the College of William and Mary. As is the case with so many lawyers, he eventually entered politics. Having received his law degree in 1820, by 1829 he was a delegate to Virginia's Constitutional Convention. He was then elected to the US House in 1836, having already served in the state legislature. He was not re-elected to the House, but entered the Senate in 1847 after the death of Senator Pennybacker. He won re-election to the Senate in the next two elections (1850 and 1856), but was expelled in 1861 for supporting the Confederacy. As a member of the Senate he was President pro tempore and served on the Foreign Affairs committee. It was possibly this experience that prompted Jefferson Davis to appoint him as a representative of the Confederate States of America to Britain. Also while in the Senate, Mason was one of the drafters of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

Mason was on his way to London with John Slidell  with the purposed of petitioning England for diplomatic recognition, when the RMS Trent, on which the diplomats took passage, was stopped by the USS San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes. The two diplomats were removed as "contraband" and confined in Fort Warren, Boston Harbor. This "Trent Affair" nearly brought England and the Union to war, since it appeared that the Union blockade was interfering with non-combatant shipping. Abraham Lincoln had no stomach for a war on a second front, and did all he could to defuse the issue. It was decided that, since England had not yet recognized the Confederacy, Mason and Slidell were still private citizens, and thus could not be classified as "enemy despatches." They were released and proceeded to England on New Year's Day, 1862.  Mason remained in London until April 1865. Clearly he made friends while there. For the next few years he lived in Canada before returning to Virginia. He died at Clarens Estate in 1871, having purchased it in 1869 after his return. Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and a number of other Confederate Generals visited Mason at the estate.


Slight shelf wear, but generally Very Good.


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